Corps opens spillways on overfilled Mo. lake

Monday, April 14, 2008

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Relief may be on the horizon for Taney County residents whose homes and businesses flooded earlier this week after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the spillways at Table Rock Dam to lower water levels on a swollen Table Rock Lake.

The lake crested early Saturday at 933.25 feet and dropped by the afternoon to just above 933 feet. The historic crest surpassed the former record crest of 932.51 feet set in May 1961.

Once the order comes to stop spilling 46,500 cubic feet per second of water through the dam's turbines and floodgates, the flow will be reduced to 15,000 cubic feet per second, lake manager Greg Oller said.

"The good news is Beaver has shut down their spill," he said. At its peak, Beaver Dam was releasing 85,000 cubic feet per second into Table Rock, he said.

More rain or heavy flows into Table Rock could cause problems, but Oller said Table Rock Dam is safe.

"The point is, the integrity of this structure is strong," he said.

Meanwhile, Oller and other corps employees working at the dam had new problems Saturday -- gawkers.

The novelty of seeing all spillways releasing water drew hundreds of people to overlooks on Missouri 165, and particularly to the overlook just below the dam. Those visitors were treated to an ear-numbing roar and clouds of spray.

So many people were walking across the highway to the dam Saturday that traffic was backed up nearly two miles on both sides of the dam, forcing motorists to wait nearly an hour to cross the dam.

Others who combined shopping with sightseeing said they were aware that the flooding caused heartache. After she shot photos of the flooded fountain area, Harrison, Ark., resident Bunny Clark said she had mixed feelings.

The corps had to release water from Table Rock for safety, she said.

"I understand why they have to do it," Clark said. "But that doesn't help matters."

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